Delhi High Court has directed the food safety regulator to ensure that food business operators make full disclosures on all that goes into any food article. Who went to court, and why? What is the problem with the labelling?
Delhi High Court has directed the food safety regulator to ensure that food business operators make full disclosures on all that goes into any food article — “not only by their code names but also by disclosing as to whether they originate from plant, or animal source, or whether they are manufactured in a laboratory, irrespective of their percentage in the food article”.
The operators must comply strictly with Regulation 2.2.2(4) of the Food Safety and Standards (Packaging and Labelling) Regulations, 2011 “on the basis that the use of any ingredient — in whatever measure or percentage, which is sourced from animals, would render the food article as Non-Vegetarian,” the court said.
“Every person has a right to know as to what he/she is consuming, and nothing can be offered to the person on a platter by resort to deceit, or camouflage,” a division bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Jasmeet Singh said in an order passed on December 9.
What are the labelling requirements under the 2011 Regulations?
The Regulations define non-vegetarian food as containing “whole or part of any animal including birds, fresh water or marine animals or eggs or products of any animal origin, but excluding milk or milk products”.
All non-vegetarian food must be labelled with “a brown colour filled circle… [of a specified diameter] inside a square with brown outline having sides double the diameter of the circle”. Where egg is the only non-vegetarian ingredient, a “declaration to this effect [may be given] in addition to the said symbol”. Vegetarian food must be labelled with a “green colour filled circle…inside the square with green outline”.
The regulations also require manufacturers to display a list of ingredients along with their weight or volume. Manufacturers must disclose which types of edible vegetable oil, edible vegetable fat, animal fat or oil, fish, poultry meat, or cheese, etc. has been used in the product.
“Where an ingredient itself is the product of two or more ingredients”, and such a “compound ingredient constitutes less than five per cent of the food, the list of ingredients of the compound ingredient, other than food additive, need not to be declared”, the Regulations say.
Who went to court, and why?
Ram Gaua Raksha Dal, a non-government Trust that works for the safety and welfare of cows, filed a petition in October seeking implementation of the existing rules, and prayed that all products, including non-consumables like crockery, wearable items, and accessories, should be marked on the basis of the ingredients used. For food items, the petition sought on the label not just the ingredients, but also the items used in the manufacturing process.
The trust, whose members are followers of the Namdhari sect, submitted that the community strongly believes in following strict vegetarianism, and that their religious beliefs also prohibit the use, in any form, of goods containing animal products.